Josef von Sternberg's final collaboration with Marlene Dietrich (1935) was out of circulation for many years, withheld by Paramount at the request of the Spanish government, which objected to the portrayal of the nation's officials as doom-ridden romantics. But the material world, of Spain or anywhere else, has little to do with Sternberg's creation, which remains one of the most coldly beautiful films ever made. Sternberg's universe is a realm of textures, shadows, and surfaces, which merge and separate in an erotic dance. The director's distant, serene gaze on the melodramatic action represents the closest cinematic approach to James Joyce's ideal of “aesthetic stasis.” The source material, Pierre Louys' The Woman and the Puppet, was used again as the basis for Luis Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire. With Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero, Edward Everett Horton, and Alison Skipworth; John Dos Passos contributed to the screenplay.
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